Presentation looks at key questions from Nuclear Age

By the Tri-City HeraldOctober 4, 2012 

The granddaughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi will speak Tuesday in the Tri-Cities.

Fermi demonstrated Dec. 2, 1942, that a nuclear chain reaction could be controlled using a small test reactor in a laboratory at the University of Chicago.

Less than two years later, at Hanford's B Reactor in September 1944, the world's first full-scale reactor went critical with Fermi in the control room.

Olivia Fermi is interested not only in her famous grandfather's world-changing scientific contributions, but also the work of her grandmother -- writer and environmental pioneer Laura Fermi.

Olivia Fermi's presentation, "On the Neutron Trail," will look at key questions of the Nuclear Age against the backdrop of her grandparents' lives and legacy.

She has traveled to the places important to her grandparents, including Rome, where Enrico pioneered the use of slow neutrons -- a precursor to the first nuclear reactors.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1938 for his discoveries in artificial radioactivity and nuclear reactions while at the University of Rome.

Laura Fermi wrote several books, and after her husband's death in 1954, she became a community activist, advocating for clean air and for civic disarmament and the elimination of gun violence.

Olivia Fermi will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Hanford High School auditorium, 450 Hanford St., Richland. Her talk is presented by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, and the B Reactor Museum Association.

Admission is free through support from LIGO's funding agency -- the National Science Foundation -- and additional support from The Graduate Center of City University of New York Science and Arts Program.

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